The white continent is nothing less than a magical place. It hosts endless vistas of rocky, seal covered beaches and gently bobbing icebergs. Penguins on ridiculously photogenic cliffs and glaciers in every hue of blue. Stunning lenticular clouds grace the skies and magnify the natural beauty of sunsets at the bottom of the world. And fun fact, in addition to being the largest desert in the world this polar region also has the oldest ice on the planet. There are endless reasons to cruise to the land of the midnight sun and here are a few of our favorites.
Cross The Drake Passage
Lively, powerful and turbulent are all words to describe the Drake Passage. The convergence of the Atlantic, Pacific and Southern seas between the tip of South America and Antarctica creates the choppiest waters in the world. Though smooth sailing is encountered on the channel, the waves can range anywhere from 1-9m high! This gateway to Antarctica is accurately nicknamed the “rite of passage”; the rough waters act as Antarctica’s way of hazing newcomers. Make sure to bring your sea legs and dramamine or other seasickness medications for those with weaker stomachs. Remember, with experienced crews and ships built to withstand extreme forces, you are in good hands. The bragging rights that come with passing through the Drake Passage and the infamous Cape Horn are worth it. It’s during this stretch of sailing that the first icebergs will come into view. Additionally, keep an eye out for fin whales, dolphins and orcas slipping through the strong waves.
Pro Tip: If you’re worried about this leg of the trip, kiss the foot of the bronze indegenious man statue in the main square of Puntas Arenas. It will ensure your safe passage to Antarctica.
Unlike other Antarctic activities like scuba diving that are expensive and require a certain skill level and experience, snowshoeing is an activity that everyone can participate in! It is also one of the least impactful on this beautiful environment. Though November and December generally have the best snow conditions, it’s possible to strap on a pair of snowshoes and see the stunning landscapes through the rest of the season as well. These excursions offer great photo opportunities that are unavailable from aboard the cruise ships. If you enjoy hiking this may be one of the most enjoyable activities for you! Remember to bring sunglasses to protect your eyes as the sun reflecting off the snow can be quite blinding. The most popular places to snowshoe are Deception and South Georgia Islands however the entirety of the Antarctic Peninsula is quite splendid!
Immerse yourself in a shimmering, frozen world of blue and white by kayaking through sheltered bays of polar waters. From the kayak you’ll be better able to witness the sheer size and scale of the glaciers and explore small waterways that are otherwise inaccessible. Tranquilly glide through crystal polar waters in search of marine life lying just below the surface between the ice floes. It’s the best way to get close to the whales, a humpback breaching right in front of you is not out of the question. Other marine life that potentially could pop up out of the glassy waters include porpoising penguins or glossy seals. Make sure to arrange this excursion with your tour operator before your cruise sets sail. This is one of the more affordable add on activities.
Join The Polar Plunge
Suit up! Ultimate bragging rights are earned by jumping into the world’s coldest waters. Though it sounds like something only a crazy person (or adrenaline junkie) would do, you’d actually be surprised at how many people participate! Between the peer pressure and the alcohol offered after your dip, you might find yourself joining in! Though more than a few minutes in these sub zero waters could kill you, most find it refreshing. In addition to tying you to the ship, there will be medical staff on hand to make sure everyone that jumps in stays in good health. After a quick dip, enjoy the cheers of onlookers and the ship’s hot spa. It’s possible one of your favorite souvenirs from Antarctica will be a picture of you jumping into the frozen waters with icebergs as the backdrop.
Though we’ve already mentioned that you will likely encounter these adorable birds snowshoeing, kayaking, and while cruising around on the zodiacs, you can’t miss visiting one of their massive colonies. The South Pole is home to 12 million waddling penguins with several mega colonies discovered in the last few years. Imagine landing on an island of king penguins as far as the eye can see, that’s what it’s like to visit South Georgia’s colony of a million penguins. A truly magnificent display of nature; a flightless sea of black and white held together by a chirping chorus. Though you can’t approach within 10 meters of the birds, the penguins are curious and without any natural terrestrial predators they often approach visitors! Other penguins that are commonly spotted on Antarctic expeditions are Chinstrap, Macaroni, Adelie, Gentoo, Rockhoppers, and if you’re lucky the Emperor penguin.
More Reading: 4 Great Places to see the Penguins of Patagonia
Antarctica is undoubtedly unlike anywhere else you’ve traveled before. One of the best activities to enjoy while visiting this icy continent is simply watching the icebergs i.e. floating ice sculptures pass by. The ‘white continent’ is somewhat of a misnomer as the icy hues range from neon blue to deep aquamarine. Everything on this icy continent exists on a massive scale – blue whales, 3 times the size of city buses, swim past icebergs 5 times the size of New York City. It should come as no surprise that admiring the frozen scenery will take up most of your waking moments. The long days provide ample sunlight to capture photographs of Antarctica’s legendary rock and ice formations.
Zodiac Boat Adventures
These small rubber boats will quickly become one of your favorite polar experiences as this transport from the ship to shore is often a thrilling ride . Zodiacs are perfect for exploring sea coves, maneuvering through icy bays, approaching crackling glaciers and landing on Antarctic beaches. With itineraries depending on weather conditions, zodiacs often take guests to remote, isolated and unexplored areas on the Antarctic continent. Due to their speed and agility, the Zodiacs are often popular among photographers who are angling for the perfect shots. Sit back and enjoy the 360 degree views of this otherworldly environment that these boats offer. On a trip like this, the excitement of not knowing what beautiful sights another day in Antarctica will bring is half the fun!
Onboard Polar Science
One the most underrated parts of Antarctic cruises is the wealth of knowledge provided by the onboard researchers and scientists! There are specialists in Oceanography, Glaciology, Ornithology, Marine Biology and Meteorology that share mindblowing bits of information. If you take the time to listen to their seminars, you’ll really be able to appreciate how special Antarctica really is. There are also opportunities to participate in studies which, trust me, is more exciting than it sounds. Use binoculars to scout for seabirds, capture and upload your photos of whale sightings, and get a better understanding of how climate change is affecting the region. Given the opportunity, it might easily be one of the most fascinating parts of your polar voyage.
Observing our planet’s largest creatures first hand is undoubtedly one of the best parts of an Antarctic excursion. During the summer they make their yearly migration to the South Pole to feast in the nutrient rich waters that supply them with abundant krill. This means that the Antarctic cruises offer prime sightings of breaching humpbacks, curious minkes, graceful rights and speedy sei whales among others. Orcas, which are commonly misidentified as whales, are a common sight as well. You would think that the blue whales, the largest animal on the planet, would be easy to spot but they are surprisingly elusive. We recommend bringing binoculars to get a closer look at these fantastic creatures when they blow out their iconic misty columns of air and pec slap the ocean’s surface. Have your cameras at the ready to take pictures of a lifetime!
As one of the most rewarding and spectacular places to visit in the world, we sincerely hope you get the chance to explore this remote continent. This enchanting polar cap has captured the imagination of adventurers and environmentalists the world over. Step with us into the furthest corner of the world abounding in endless visions of penguins, icebergs, and glaciers to experience the world like never before. To learn more about our Antarctic Cruises here are some suggestions for further reading.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us and we will be happy to help (Click here to inquire).
Antarctica Express Air Cruise 6 Days
Pass through the Beagle Channel skirting Cape Horn and through the Drake Passage before reaching the South Shetland Islands’ icy bays and ultimately, King George Island.
Polar Circle Air Cruise
Encircle the Antarctic Peninsula from the Shetland Islands to encounter icebergs, whales, seals, and penguins in vast frozen oceans.